When we were in Brattleboro Visitors’ Centre, there was a cardboard cut-out of Kevin Bacon wearing an ‘I love Brattleboro’ sweatshirt. I meant to ask the connection between the two (although, because of the number of films he’s been in, you are supposed to be able to trace any actor to Kevin Bacon in six moves), but forgot. Well, I’ve just found out that Brattleboro has an annual Baconfest celebrating all things bacon, and in 2014, they invited Kevin but he was probably too busy advertising EE and posted a Twitter video excusing himself.
We have stayed in every type of hotel and motel from the scummy to the luxurious. Tonight’s hotel, the Radisson, falls at the ritzier end of the scale and fancies itself a bit of a castle with roof-top crenellations (which may be why it justifies not providing a fridge). Last night’s motel was at the other extreme: the Econo Lodge. The very name says, ‘we are cheap and aim for the barely adequate’. It achieved it. Still, generally the standard has been higher than on Route 66, and we had congratulated ourselves on at least avoiding staying at a motel where there had been a murder earlier in the year, as happened last time.
Well, that may have lasted only until last night, because when the Five O’clock Club arrived in Brattleboro (much earlier than us), they found the motel swarming with police as someone had been found in one of the rooms, believed to have succumbed to an over-dose of heroin. It goes to show that, for all its veneer of opulence and respectability, there is a darker side to New England. In 2014, the New York Times ran an article with the headline, ‘Heroin Scourge Overtakes a ‘Quaint’ Vermont Town’, and that referred to our previous night’s resting-place, Bennington. On that cheery note, we’ll move on.
Today was heralded as the sting in the tail of the tour as a 71 mile day combined with 3,000 feet of climb in conditions of overwhelming mid-thirties heat. We set the alarm for 05.30, but the Five O’clock Club had set theirs even earlier so we were still one of the last to leave. There is evident benefit in this strategy as, at this time of the day, the temperatures are still in the low twenties and, this morning, there was mist over the river.
We covered four states today, leaving Vermont and entering New Hampshire before veering into Massachusetts and swerving back again, making eleven all told, plus one Canadian province.
Almost immediately on entering New Hampshire, there was a sign for an NH liquor store. It seems the sale of alcohol is restricted in New Hampshire. Wine and beer can be bought in groceries which includes supermarkets but liquor (more than 6% alcohol) can only be bought at state-run stores. Apparently there are still 17 states which retain control over the sale of liquor, a throwback to the Prohibition era. A home brewer in New Hampshire is restricted to 100 gallons (or 200 if a couple)!
When we started out, most of the history was concerned with the early 19th Century as Lewis and Clark forged their way west, but now we’re in New England, the clock has been turned back fifty years and nothing is worth considering unless it has a 17- at the beginning. In Fitzwilliam, we came across this elm tree, accompanied by a plaque which explained that this had replaced the original, dubbed the ‘Liberty Tree’ in protest at the hated British stamp tax. “In August 1775, as a last act of violence prior to their evacuation of Boston, British soldiers cut it down because it bore the name ‘Liberty'”. The British behaving like hooligans abroad? That would never happen.
Every village has its steepled church in white and its houses in the colonialist revival style:
Although we completed today’s ride in good time, the temperature had started to rise and by early afternoon, it was in the mid-thirties and suffocating. Our hotel was some distance to the south of Nashua and the heat made sight-seeing prohibitively uncomfortable so we opted for an ice-cold coffee and an uncharacteristically early finish.
Tomorrow, we ride into Boston for the final leg. In theory, everyone will congregate at JFK’s birth-place about nine miles out, regardless of when they set out, but the Five O’clock Club are restless. If they had their way, the meeting would be earlier still, even though to arrive at the rendezvous we have to travel 42 miles from the hotel, the last part of it along a busy city bike trail. Realistically, we are going to need five hours of cycling to take account of unforeseen eventualities, meaning a 06.30 start.
Assuming all 22 manage to link up at 11.30, we then have to negotiate our way collectively past nine landmarks including Harvard, the Boston Red Sox’s ground, Paul Revere’s house and the site where the US Constitution is held. It’ll be a miracle if we arrive at our final hotel by 13.45, the agreed time for a group photo.
At Happy Hour tonight, someone had composed a song which included all of the 51 (I think) places we have stayed at and I realised that even now, I can’t even remember anything about Monticello, Clare and Simcoe. Soon it will be a memory, but at least this blog will serve as a reminder, which is part of its purpose.
We’ll finish today with the birthday girl herself engaged in her favourite occupation, climbing a hill.